Sunday at the 2014 Road Runner Rally
Once a horsewoman, always a horsewoman. That is what I’ve always been told. I suppose my abilities with horses have gone dormant over the years, but they are still there when I need them. I mention this only because I take every opportunity to ride horses, and on the last morning of the rally, I got one of those opportunities.
Last summer I enjoyed riding with Wild Bill McClain, the horse wrangler at HML. If you recall, we had an epic ride through the Blue Wilderness, a four-hour ride that ended in a severe thunderstorm. Sadly, Cisco, the horse that I rode that day, is gone (colic), and the trail that we took through the Blue Wilderness is now impassable because of fallen trees (according to Bill).
On Sunday morning of our rally, a few friends and I went for a horseback ride close to the lodge. I had arranged with Bill ahead of time that I would go, and maybe one other person. Surprisingly, there were three other riders that turned up to ride, and I was delighted! Melanie had riding experience, but the other two women had little or none. I was on a gray and white paint horse named Bailey. Marla was on Lucy, the bay mare I’d ridden on one of my rides last year, and the other lady was on a bay mare that looked like she was at least partially a Thoroughbred. Bill was on a pretty chestnut mare that was very young, around four years old. She was very alert, looking at everything. Bill spoke to her quietly and reassuringly each time she was hesitant about going near something, and she did everything she was asked. It was a great ride.
The ride was about two hours long, and we got started on the road behind the lodge, which turned onto FR576, a road with which I am extremely familiar! But it’s different at a slower pace, I see more things than when I am flying by at 30 miles an hour. As we rode our horses, we turned off the dirt road, rode a narrow trail, and soon found ourselves in the big meadow where Hal and I went snowmobiling about a year and a half ago.
We walked through the field of long grasses and wild irises, and soon came to the cabin. It is not inhabited, but there was someone staying nearby in a trailer. This person was putting up a wire fence near the property.
We rode our horses down a couple of steep rocky grades, and up a couple as well. It’s amazing how my body remembers how to ride, I don’t even think about it. I hadn’t done this kind of riding since I was on Cisco almost a year ago, and it felt as natural to me as breathing.
The last part of the ride was near the weir road that Hal and I had been on about 48 hours earlier. We walked through a lush, deep green forest, where ferns and aspens grew close to the ground, and sunlight dappled the pathways with shadows. Butterflies that looked like monarchs flitted everywhere and sometimes attached themselves to us, or our horses. Dust floated through the air, and silence reigned except for the soft clop-clop of the horses’ hooves over the ground.
When we came to the pathway under some power lines, we saw bear tracks. We also saw a lot of tracks made by elk and a few deer, and at one point I looked down and saw the slender leg of what must have been a fawn, a tiny cloven hoof still attached. It was heartbreaking to me, but nature is ruthless.
Soon we came back out onto FR576, and then we were on the dirt road behind the lodge that led to the stables, closing the loop that we had begun two hours before. We all dismounted, and Bill left the horses tacked (wearing saddles and bridles) and ready for the next group of riders.
Riding back in:
I walked back toward the lodge to find Hal. He was sitting in a plastic Adirondack chair under the trees near the cabins, talking to someone and taking photos of us as we returned. He was feeling better, but it was time to pack up and go.
After I got my horse gear off, we packed the car, and got the bikes loaded onto the trailer. I did my best to help Hal who was still not feeling great. Soon we bid goodbye to everyone at the lodge, and thanked them for doing a great job hosting our rally. I think we were almost the last ones to leave, except for at least one person who had decided to stay and camp for two more nights.
On the road home, I asked Hal if he wanted me to drive, but he said he was okay. However, by Show Low we both needed a cup of coffee and a candy bar to stay awake. Later, we dropped into the incessant, unrelenting heat of the Phoenix area, and our fabulous weekend of riding, feeling cool temperatures, and enjoying being with our fellow club members was over.
I hope that we can make this an annual event for our AZBeemers riding club. Would I do a few things differently if I were to do it over? Yes, of course. The first time we put on an event that is different from what we’ve done before, there are always things that don’t go smoothly. The things that didn’t were relatively minor, and easily “fixable” next time. So far, the response to this year’s rally seems overwhelmingly positive, and I hope we can return next year.